Audi A6 Avant

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Another crushingly good effort from Audi. The new A6 Avant is a one-stop shop for family life

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What is it?
Evolution rather than revolution for the new Audi A6 Avant, but that’s definitely not a bad thing in this case: a handsome, capacious estate car that’s at home pretty much anywhere.

Bigger picture stuff comes from the external redesign to keep it in-line with Audi’s ‘angry robot’ aesthetic and a whole raft of small and not-so-small changes. What doesn’t change is the fact that this is a car that can cover a lot of bases, even if most of the improvements feel incremental.

(If you missed our feature, click HERE to read about the B9 RS 4 Avant)

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There’s more room inside, despite looking a little less bulky than it used to and having the same carrying capacity as before (565-litres seats up, 1,680-litres seats down). There will be a choice of engines with improved efficiency across the board, with all cars coming with a little mild-hybrid system (12-volt for the four-cylinder cars, 48v for the six-cyl variants).

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At the moment, the UK gets a pair of diesels from launch, a 2-litre four cylinder with 201bhp and 400Nm and a bi-turbo 3.0-litre six-pot with 283bhp and 620Nm, the latter good for 100km/h in 5.7 seconds and a limited 250km/hr), and there’ll be four- and six-cylinder petrol versions along later, with the sixes getting quattro and an 8spd auto and the fours remaining front-wheel drive with the 7spd S-tronic ‘box. There’ll even be a four-cylinder diesel with quattro and ‘Ultra’ technology later on to make it even more fuel efficient. So there’s a fair few to choose from.

Phew. And that’s not all, because as ever with Audi, there’s a fair bit of spec digging you have to do to understand it all. Along with all the usual options of Sport and S-Line trims, there are four different suspensions to choose from: standard steel springs, S-Line - which is 20mm lower - optional damper-control and full adaptive air suspension.

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There’s ‘Progressive steering’, increasing the rack speed and making the car swivel more quickly the further the steering wheel is turned, and optional all-wheel steering, turning the rear wheels by as much as five degrees to increase agility.

There are wheel choices, options for the LED headlights as well as Comfort, Sound, Technology, Tour and City Assist packs, all of them bundling various options together. Honestly, it’s a bit of a minefield. The basic message? The A6 Avant is a good-looking wagon that will carry all your stuff, and be thoughtful and convenient.

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What is it like on the road?
The car we’ll concentrate on is the S-Line four-cylinder diesel with 201bhp, 12v mild-hybrid on 20-inch wheels, with the optional damper control (you can’t get all-wheel steering on the ’40’ spec cars, which this power output is).

And, unsurprisingly, it’s really very good, if not particularly stimulating. The engine is strong - particularly in the important mid-range - as well as being frugal and quiet. We managed just under 5.6l/100km without even trying. The motor has precisely no character, but that’s probably not a priority in a diesel estate car, and it’s particularly good at schlepping down a motorway or A-road.

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Mind you, when it comes to handling the A6 Avant isn’t exactly embarrassed down a twistier bit, combining brilliant body control with decent ride quality even on the chunky wheels. The air suspension rides notably better, but there’s a strong argument here for either going full air, or sticking with the cheaper standard steel springs and saving the money; fiddling with optional dampers is something you’ll do rarely.

Same goes for the all-wheel steering on the larger-engined models - it does make the car feel more nimble, but it’s probably not something you’d miss. Generally, this is absolutely as you’d expect from a premium carmaker: safe, solid, quiet and capable. You don’t miss quattro in dry conditions, though it’s no doubt a bonus if you live somewhere with harsh winters.

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And yes, the 283bhp V6 diesel is pretty much all the speed you need in a car like this. Well, right up until the new RS 6 makes an appearance, at which point minds will probably be changed.

(If you missed our feature, click HERE to read about the B9 RS 4 Avant)

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Layout, finish and space
Once again, this is where Audi does an exceptional job, because Audi interiors are really very well done. All cars get the MMI Virtual Cockpit touchscreen system (8.8-inch touchscreen in the top of the dash, with another 8.6-inch version underneath for other functions, as well as the screen in the instrument binnacle), heated electric seats, steering wheel controls, climate control, a decent stereo (a Bang & Olufsen is optional), extended start/stop (as part of the mild-hybrid system) and various other systems.

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It’s comfortable for five, easily swallowing proper-sized adults in the back, and there’s generous and convenient boot space, with a low load lip - important if you’re constantly slinging stuff in and out. Overall, you just feel like this car would make your life just that little bit easier.

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Running costs and reliability
Residuals on A6 Avants have traditionally been strong - probably something to do with their Swiss-army knife characteristics. It’s the kind of car that really is superbly competent, and although it isn’t the kind of thing you’d sell your soul to own, it’s well made and well thought out, combining practicality with a little bit of luxe.

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It’s a cliché to describe it as the perfect family car, but there’s not much that beats a decent large estate for coping with everything that kids and dogs and ridiculous amounts of luggage can throw at it. If you avoid getting too deep into the options list - at which point an A6 Avant can get into serious amounts of cash - then you’ll have a car you find yourself relying on for everything.

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Final thoughts and pick of the range
Handsome, well-made, comfortable and superbly practical. Just don’t bury yourself in options that you won’t use, and the A6 Avant becomes the black lab of faithful companions.

Author: TopGear
Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars, and is the most widely watched factual television programme in the world.